Round 4 Tsukuba Race Report | Season 2

Already we are at the penultimate round of the championship and in the VBTVR that can only mean one thing… it’s time for the Joker Round! The Joker Round is held at a track voted for by the drivers and fans. For season two the voting theme was an ‘Asian Escape’, Suzuka, Okayama and Twin Ring Motegi were all on the list but it was Tsukuba that came out on top, with just over 48% of the votes going to the small, technical 2km circuit. Tsukuba is located in Shimotsuma, a neighboring city of Tsukuba, Japan. It is around 60 km north of central Tokyo. 

The track was first conceived in 1966, but officially opened in June 1970. In its heyday the circuit hosted rounds of the All-Japan F3 Championship as well as the Japanese Touring Car series, but it was time attack which really helped Tsukuba become as popular as it has, so much so that being able to obtain the fastest lap around the course became a badge of honour to the locals. Official Time Attack competitions began being organised in the mid-90s and Tsukuba became its holy temple. However, for a lot of us it was video games such as Gran Turismo that introduced us to the Japanese circuit, which meant that Tsukuba became widely known to an audience who almost certainly would never set a foot on the circuit in real life.


Being such a short lap means that every tenth or even hundredth of a second counts even more than usual, combining that with the fact that Tsukuba is the shortest track we’ve visited in the VBTCR championship ensured that this was the most difficult qualifying session that the drivers have faced so far. 

Even with all of this, for a third time in four rounds it was newly named eTeamHARD – Heusinkveld who managed yet another front row lock out. Roman Paerschke sent his Hyundai Veloster to the top of the timing sheet with a rapid 58.410 second lap. Romans team mate, Ryan Elliott only just missed out on pole with a lap time that was just 0.12 seconds off of the optimum pace.

Goldwing Motorsport driver Duncan Marais was the best of the Hondas and would start third on the grid. Ryan Smith and Thomas Dandridge rounded out the top five.

Scott Morris was the highest qualifying rookie driver this week, starting way up in 12th position. An excellent lap from the TR powered by Geekz Energy driver!

race One


With such a short run down to turn one at Tsukuba, the chance to gain big off of the start was small, but that did not deter Ryan Smith who had an excellent start from fourth in his Audi RS3, to promote himself upto second place by the time the drivers were turning into the first corner. Roman Paerschke got away well and ensured that he retained the lead without any issue. The Hyundai Veloster seems to always be the slowest car off of the line and Tsukuba was no exception, costing Elantra drivers such as Mark McCabe, Paul Clist and Alfie Mcgarrity multiple places on the opening lap.

An opportunistic move from Rikki Edwards into turn one unfortunately didn’t pay off as he dipped two wheels onto the grass during braking which sent his Audi RS3 sideways and into potentially VBTCR’s unluckiest driver, Johannes Leppitt who was sent back to the pits for repairs once again through no fault of his own. The rest of the drivers navigated the twists and turns of the opening lap at Tsukuba without incident, with just a few friendly bumps and nudges between the cars.

One great thing about racing at such a short track was the fact that it kept the whole field close together, drivers were having to plan overtakes three or four corners before they wanted to make the move as they knew that if they got out of line and didn’t get the overtake done, it could easily drop them two, three or four places before they could slot back in. 

One driver that didn’t have to worry about all of that though was Roman Paerschke, the eTeamHARD – Heusinkveld driver has repeatedly shown us this season that he knows how to convert pole poisition to a win and that’s exactly what he did here, earning his third victory of the season. His teammate Ryan Elliott finished just a few seconds behind to earn maximum points for the team with Jon Bayliffe driving a superb race to come home in third, his best VBTCR finish so far. Mark McCabe drove well to finish in 7th and so did Dan Thornton in 8th, both earning their highest finishes of the season.

Spud Motorsport driver Alfie Mcgarrity finished at the top of the rookies podium, finishing 15th overall. He was closely followed by Scott Morris in 16th overall who drove an excellent race after starting from the pit lane.


race two - reverse grid race

Knowing that Tsukuba is such a tight track with limited overtaking opportunities I think I can safely say that almost all of us were expecting some form of carnage to break out, especially during the start of the reverse grid race. Scott Morris and Fraser Geraghty had a coming together into turn one which spun Fraser out and left Paul Clist nowhere to go, dropping both drivers right the way to the back of the field but other than that all of the drivers managed to safely navigate lap one. 


The opening few laps were exciting to watch with multiple battles going on, particularly between Jon Bayliffe and the two eTeamHARD – Heusinkveld drivers, but lap four was the end of the battle for Jon as he struck a stranded Honda Civic coming out of the penultimate corner, resulting in him towing back to the pit lane. Shane Dunn met the same fate having no way to avoid the stationary car and losing a front wheel in the process. 

But up front there was a three way battle going on for the lead of the race, Rikki Edwards had managed to jump into first at the start of the race however Johannes Leppitt and Dan Thornton were quickly hunting him down. Rikki did an excellent job to hold onto the  lead for the first six laps but a slightly wide line into the final turn allowed Johannes to slip through the gap and into the lead of the race. The battle continued but it was a class drive from Johannes that earnt the TR powered by Geekz Energy driver his and the teams first VBTCR win! Not only this but it was also the first time ever that a rookie driver has taken an overall VBTCR win. Sam Vanolst drove an almost unbelievable race two to come from 20th on the grid and finish up in 2nd place whilst Ryan Elliott rounded out the podium.

With Johannes taking the overall and rookies win, it was Scott Morris who came 2nd of the rookies, an excellent 10th place overall and Duncan Steele who finished third of the rookies, 11th place overall which was his highest overall finish of the season so far.


So that’s the joker round completed, now eight races in we have had six different winners from six different teams. Thanks to Johannes, the Hyundai Elantra has finally taken it’s first VBTCR race win meaning that each of the four cars in the championship have now won at least one race! It’s onto the final round next at Knockhill and it’s guaranteed to be a good’en!

Ryan Elliott is still sat at the the top of the championship standings and even after managing to open up his lead, Thomas Dandridge is still only fifteen points behind. With 55 points for a race win it really is all to play for going to Knockhill! Marytn Pearson had an excellent couple of races this week and is another driver who has a very realistic chance of finishing in that top spot. Sam Vanolst is just two points behing Martyn and Ryan Smith rounds out the top five.

A race two win as sent Johannes Leppitt all the way to the top of the rookies standings, Paul Clist is now in second and will be looking to reclaim that top spot at the final round of the season. Duncan Steele is in third, Alfie Mcgarrity fourth and William Martin fifth. Just 28 points separates the top 5 drivers in the rookies championship, one podium finish at Knockhill could very much earn any of these drivers the rookie championship!

The teams championship is looking just as tight, but with eTeamHARD – Heusinkveld retaining their place at the top, can anyone challenge Roman and Ryan going into the last round of the season? Pulsus eSports are still holding their spot in second whilst its Goldwing Motorsports who have reclaimed their place in third.

Make sure to give the race broadcast a watch over on our YouTube channel to see exactly how it all went down at Tsukuba!

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